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Twelve Turning Points of the Second World War, by Philip M. H. Bell

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012. Pp. xx, 268. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $16.00 paper. ISBN: 030018770X.

A Critical Look at the Decisive Moments of the Second World War

Bell (Honorary Senior Fellow, Liverpool), author of such works as The Origins of the Second World War in Europe and France and Britain, 1900-1940: Entente and Estrangement, takes a look at what he argues are the decisive turning points of World War II.  After providing an overview of the war in his introduction, Bell proceeds to discuss his dozen choices as critical turning points.  Taking them in order, these are these are the Fall of France, the Battle of Britain (with a side look at the German invasion threat), Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of Russia, Pearl Harbor, which turned a European war into a truly global conflict war and harnessed the enormous might of the United States to the Allied cause, the “Miracle at Midway,” the defense of Stalingrad, the Battle of the Atlantic, the war in the factories, the Tehran Conference, D-Day and the Normandy Campaign, the Yalta Conference, and the building and use of the atomic bomb.  For each of these episodes, Bell tries, usually effectively, to explain why events unfolded as they did and how they affected subsequent events, so that to a considerable extent each “turning point” helped set the stage for the next.

One can argue with some of Bell’s choices, and omissions.  For example, why not Hitler’s invasion of Poland, or America’s decision to rearm, or Operation Torch, the first real strategic offensive by the Western Allies in the war?  The cases Bell does make, however, will certainly provide the reader with considerable food for thought.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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